Soapbox: I’ve hit admin overload

It is not “admin days” we need but “social work days”, writes a social worker

My department has the occasional “admin day” – an opportunity to do some housekeeping and catch up on paperwork, writes an anonymous social worker. However, the notion that a mere day is enough for this task is almost as absurd as suggesting that Wales will qualify for the next football World Cup.

An “admin week” would be more like it or, better still, an “admin month”. Actually, given the time that seems to be devoted to administrative duties these days, it would perhaps be even more fitting to have the odd “social work day” – an opportunity to connect with our service users and have a break from the ever increasing bureaucracy of it all.

Having been attracted to social work for its human interaction element, I find it incredibly frustrating to spend as much time at a desk now as I did when I was a clerical assistant.

Case notes

The most irritating proponent of admin for me is case notes. While the importance of accurate and up-to-date case notes needs no further explanation and is something I wholeheartedly support, it doesn’t make having to do them any less irritating.

The first dilemma is what to record? Is it enough to record only major incidents or is it important to lay down a running commentary of events so that another worker can easily pick up the case?

Then there’s the million dollar question of when to record case notes? Entering case notes directly after the event seems sensible but stops the flow of any working momentum.

Dangerous alternative

The alternative – allowing case notes to amass – can be dangerous, often leading to entire weeks being devoted to clearing the backlog, occasionally punctuated by the rare interaction with a service user!

Case notes aside, almost every intervention seems to demand more paperwork. The most simple service request now requires the completion of absurdly long referral forms, often asking for information which is irrelevant. And, having spent hours filling these in, it is not unusual to be told “thanks, but we’ve just introduced a revised referral form – would you mind completing one?”.

As a result, making a basic referral can easily become a day-long task and a crime against the environment.

Was it a sick prank?

Why does it seem that so many assessment tools have been devised by people who are not resident on planet Earth?

When I was first shown a copy of a blank unified assessment document I genuinely wondered whether it was some kind of sick initiation prank that my new colleagues were playing on me.

It’s not that I object to making records or writing reports (I really enjoy this in moderation), and I’m not naïve enough to think there isn’t a need for robust admin procedures. But I’d just like to have more “social work days” when I can indulge in the enjoyable aspect of the job: direct work with service users.

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This article is published in the 8 October 2009 edition of Community Care under the headline “Admin has had its day”

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